Never Say Never Again Reviews
Never Say Never Again is essentially a remake of 1966's Thunderball, which finds Bond stumbling onto a conspiracy to hijack two nuclear warheads and ransom the world to avoid detonation. Along the way he runs into the femme fatale Fatima Blush (Barbara Carerra) and the innocent victim Domino (Kim Basinger) while trying to stop SPECTRE agent #1 Maximillan Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer).
This film is really a novelty. It had been 12 years since Connery bowed out in Diamonds Are Forever and he is the main draw of this film. It's played as an older Bond, which is an interesting concept even though we've seen the same story before. This film was Irvin Kershner's follow up the the magnificent Empire Strikes back and even though this film doesn't come close to the perfection of that movie it is still a solid action adventure with a few surprises. It's hokey at times, but Connery proves even at that age he is still James Bond.
Connery's Bond is older and more vulnerable than we remember him. His boss, M, doesn't hold him in very high regard and actually suggests that he take some time off in a plush health spa. During his time here, Bond uncovers a strange plot and the further he delves into the mystery the more he discovers. It seems that his old adversaries SPECTRE, fronted by the nefarious Blofeld (Max Von Sydow) have stolen two nuclear warheads which they will detonate if they are not paid an extortionate ransom. Chief overseer of this hideous plan is Emile Largo (Klaus Maria Brandeur), and Bond pursues Largo around the globe in an attempt to stop him, visiting such places as Monte Carlo and North Africa during the course of the mission.
The music by Michel Legrand is poor by series standards. It sounds rather similar to his music for the sleazy 1981 movie Your Ticket Is No Longer Valid, and is really ill-suited to this Bond production. However, in terms of villains, they've come with a couple of great ones for this film. Largo, as personified by Brandeur, is smooth but deadly, and hench-woman Fatima Blush (the sensual Barbara Carrera) is uncommonly disturbing. Rowan Atkinson also has a fairly good role as a dim-witted agent assigned to "help" Bond. The big action sequences are quite good, especially the horse chase around the North African sea-fortress and the motorbike chase, although some of the underwater moments are tough to understand because it's hard to figure out who is who behind the diving masks.
This time Brandauer appears as the confident and slightly flamboyant villain Largo. Though top billed von Sydow only appears briefly as Blofeld, the head of SPECTRE. Largo's henchwoman is given a new name, Fatima Blush, and played wickedly by Carrera. Basinger is stiff as the dancer Domino, Largo property and Bond's damsel in distress. Bernie Casey is the sixth man to portray Felix Leiter. This was the first time the character was presented as a black man. The movie's lack of budget is most evident in Q's grousing about a lack of funding for his inventions. Actually, McCowen's character is called Algernon, not Q. Fox and Salem get to represent M and Moneypenny. And Rowan Atkinson adds some silliness.
Due to legal haggling the plot of Thunderball was redone in this film, but I really don't understand why producer Kevin McClory insisted on fighting for this one. In this version Domino's brother has an artificial eye to fool a security system into thinking he is the president of the United States, thereby allowing SPECTRE to get a hold of two atomic warheads. Bond, who appears quite aged in this outing, is still able to keep up physically in fighting the bad guys, in bedding the women, and in slipping in some humorous remarks. The only other thing I care to comment on is the video games. I was not aware that in the 80's arcade video games like Centipede were prevalent in casinos. The scene looks so funny now. And instead of the villain competing with Bond at a high stakes game of cards (in other words engaging in macho posturing), they play a WarGames like video game with joysticks that shock the loser! It's laughable!
Okay, the film isn't that... similar to Eon's "Thunderball". Okay, it's not that cheesy, either, but still cheesy enough for this film to not even reach the 15-minute mark before Bond opens a large suitcase to reveal an assortment of fine picnic foods, one piece of which already being plated. After that, the film begins an endless streak of camp and cheese, and while that kind of tone is palpable, there comes many a time where you're left more annoyed by the satire than amused by it. Still, it's hard not to wish for more camp, because when the film isn't cheesy, it's kind of boring, an aspect that you can expect from Irvin Kershner, if, of course, you're one of the handful of sensible people with enough guts to actually admit there were only about five scenes in "The Empire Strikes Back" that weren't dull. Seriously though, the film is often quiet and occasionally repetative, leaving it to be rather dull, while a couple of sequences that come and go in fashions that are almost as inorganic as a deal of the music cues damage the flow of the film, and by extension, engagement. This film is famous as the "unoffical" installment in the "007", but really, it's hard to tell, because this thing follows plenty of the same beats of Eon's "official" series, flaws and all. However, because this is such a "Bond" film, unofficial or not, on top of having plenty of recognizable flaws, this film has plenty of recognizable strengths.
Okay, say what you will about how great "The Empire Strikes Back" is (*cough*wrong*cough*), Irvin Kershner is certainly no Lewis Gilbert when it comes to action, but he's still pretty good. Okay, now, these stunts aren't a "Real Bond" level of choreography and staging slickness, but it's still pretty sharp, and it's there, in the action, where the camp is arguably at its best, as it livens up the heat of the situation and keeps you engaged, as well as entertained, which isn't to say that the camp is so powerful to the point where you forget the substance behind it, what little though, there may be. Still, what slickness there is in the action is really brought to light by handsome cinematography, which not only pays a fine compliment to the action, but a very lush compliment to the fine locations that really grab your attention. If nothing else, the film is as handsome and charming as any other "Bond" film, but the charm that you're really coming to see is that of the one, the only, the original mac daddy "Bond": Mr. Sean Connery. Well, ladies and gentlemen, he's back and just as sharp as ever. True, seeing as this is not only "Thunderball" - on the first "007" installments to be low on genuineness -, as well as a bit of a satire on the "007" series itself, there's not enough humanity in the material for Connery to work so well off of like he always did, so for those hoping that Connery will be going back to the "real" classic days of "007" - complete with all the compelling humanity -, prepared to be disappointed. Still, no matter what, you can't be totally disappointed because, come on, it's Sean Connery returning as James Bond, and sure enough, he remains as charming as ever, carrying this film from beginning to end with his charismatic and quite missed presence.
At the end of the original's trip back home before he leaves, nev-I mean, not likely to return, you're left looking back at all of the cheesy, sometimes annoying camp and... forgeting about it, because it's the quietness and sometimes spotty storytelling that's most bothersome, but more often than not, Irvin Kershner delivers on the thrills, dazzle and charm of the "007" series, almost as much as Sean Connery himself, leaving "Never Say Never Again" to stand as a generally enjoyable and welcomed addition to the "007" franchise, where Eon wants it to be or not.
2.5/5 - Fair
Kim Bassinger? Hot!
Great theme song. This was at the time Roger made "Octopussy"-ahem-WEAK!.